by Allyna Steinberg
Becoming a parent is an extremely special time that brings both great joy and new challenges for expecting parents, such as pregnancy pain, fear of childbirth pain, and the strain carrying one’s newborn. With Alexander Technique lessons, pregnant people and their partners and support teams can learn fundamentals of movement to help them get out of the way of natural processes in order to support and ease these life transitions.
To bring the many benefits of the Alexander Technique to life, I interviewed Heather Gardner whose Alexander Technique lessons played a key role during pregnancy and life with her son Ben.
Heather’s experience suggests parents-to-be can use Alexander Technique lessons to:
- Adjust to the growing weight and changes associated with pregnancy.
- Learn about the overall coordination of the body.
- Practice positions such as squats and being on all fours, breathing and vocalizing (e.g. screaming) with ease to prepare for childbirth.
- Explore approaches to prevent strain during the repetitive demands of lifting, holding and carrying that comes with parenthood.
Heather explained, “The Alexander Technique provides the tools needed to allow your body to adjust to the new demands of parenthood. It makes a huge difference. The Alexander Technique goes a long way to support your staying healthy during pregnancy and throughout life.”
Heather believes that if she did not have the Alexander Technique she would have experienced back pain like many of her friends, and her childbirth experience would have been extremely different. Research backs this up. A study showed that pain during pregnancy – especially lower back and pelvic pain related to the fetus not finding the correct position for a vaginal birth -- is associated with increased labor duration, assisted delivery (e.g. use of forceps) and cesarean section.
“The pregnancy weight caused a strong pulling of my lower back forward. It would change week to week. But with the Alexander Technique I was able to re-find the balance of my back in relationship to the baby.
Heather found that her understanding of the body from her Alexander Technique lessons helped her maintain good posture as her body changed.
The Alexander Technique helped Heather avoid common causes of lower back pain by helping her avoid the tendency of pregnant women to react to the additional weight by pulling their back forward or bringing their shoulders back, both of which lead to overarching of the back. “The pregnancy weight caused a strong pulling of my lower back forward. It would change week to week. But with the Alexander Technique I was able to re-find the balance of my back in relationship to the baby.”
Thanks to the Alexander Technique, Heather did not have to brace against the weight of her pregnancy but rather could allow her skeleton to take on the weight. She found she could maintain the connection from the top of her head through to her feet, which helped her stay in her natural alignment even as the pregnancy hormones softened the pelvic joints in preparation for childbirth.
Heather maintained good circulation by exploring movement with her Alexander Technique teacher and on her own. Her hips stayed flexible, which was critical to good posture and made walking enjoyable throughout her pregnancy. Heather felt very grateful because she wouldn’t have been able to do that if she had the musculoskeletal pain others have. In describing her pregnancy, Heather said, “I never experienced back pain, had little swelling, and slept well. I never felt better.”
The Alexander Technique helps people in labor ease anxiety and meet the physical demands of childbirth.
Heather described the experience of trying to push during labor but realizing that her body knew what to do on its own. The Alexander Technique helped Heather maintain a released posture during contractions. This helped her avoid common challenges women face, including tightening with contractions and holding the pelvic floor, which is exhausting and interferes with the opening needed for a vaginal birth. In Heather’s words, “When your body is ready to push, your body just does it and you’re along for the ride. The Alexander Technique helped me stay out of the way and let it happen.”
Heather maintain a released posture during contractions. This helped her avoid common challenges women face, including tightening with contractions and holding the pelvic floor, which is exhausting and interferes with the opening needed for a vaginal birth. In Heather’s words, “When your body is ready to push, your body just does it and you’re along for the ride. The Alexander Technique helped me stay out of the way and let it happen.”
Heather also said the Alexander Technique played a role with her son being in the right position for a vaginal birth. When the fetus is in the head-down position, with the back of the head slightly towards the front of one’s tummy, birthing is likely to be shorter and easier. See here how the fetus fits into the curve of the pelvis. Heather explained, “Ben was in position with plenty of time to go. If our bodies are in their alignment without extra tension, gravity and the weight of the head takes them into that position. Ben had the room to move to that area because of the Alexander Technique.”
Alexander Technique helps pregnant people recover from birthing. In addition, it helps parents avoid or heal from the strain of carrying their newborn. It can also help parents support their child’s development.
We often hear people talk about losing pregnancy weight, but the body is also going through many other adjustments. Heather shared, “For a few weeks after Ben was born, I had this crazy experience where all of my organs were reorganizing themselves because they had been pushed aside for so long. It made me want to curl up so that I wouldn’t feel the re-positioning. I knew this would take me out of my alignment, so with the Alexander Technique I was able to keep reminding myself to maintain the length in my torso and allow my skeleton to be the structure in which the organs find their home. This was something I was completely unprepared for, so I was glad to have the Alexander Technique as a lens to deal with it.”
As a parent, there is a lot of repetitive lifting, holding, and carrying your baby, as well as pushing a stroller, lugging around an infant car seat, and picking up toys from the floor. It’s common for parents to develop pain, which can be extremely frustrating at such a special time in your child’s development. Heather explained that the Alexander Technique enabled her and her partner to approach the everyday tasks of parenthood with an eye towards their own posture and Ben’s natural coordination. It is also common to strain the head, neck and back while breastfeeding, but Heather found the Alexander Technique helped her find comfortable ways to breastfeed.
“The Alexander Technique has had a huge impact on how I touch, hold and guide Ben,” Heather continued, “A big thing I have to do every day with Ben is go up and down the stairs. Even though the stairs are too big for Ben, he now likes to walk down them with help. I noticed that my first tendency was to pull his arm up as he goes down. Then I realized I could actually do less and support him better by letting him take the lead. He then pulls or leans just the amount he needs. I don’t have to give him the extra amount which pulls his arm. I’ve taught my mom how to do this, too.” Want to see what the right support could look like? Check out this photo and read about stair climbing, which is an important milestone for children’s strength and motor development.
Taking Lessons with Your Partner (Or Support Team)
It can be helpful to take a series of Alexander Technique lessons during pregnancy and to include your partner or support team.
Heather said, “Partners can benefit immensely from learning the Alexander Technique. My partner Walt had to help me get off the couch toward the end of my pregnancy. From Alexander Technique lessons, he knew how to help me without hurting himself and pulling on me. He was also able to support me in my use of the Technique. Also, we have both been able to apply it to the everyday lifting and carrying involved with parenting.”
The Alexander Technique Birth Book explains further how pregnant people can prepare for pregnancy and childbirth using the Alexander Technique. This can be a good companion to taking a series of Alexander Technique lessons.
Text4Baby provides free text messages 3x/week to support you through birth and baby’s first year; messages are timed to where you are in your pregnancy or your baby’s stage of development.
This blog was originally posted at www.AlexanderTechniqueForLiving.com.
ALLYNA STEINBERG teaches the Alexander Technique in NYC and in theHudson Valley.She has over 15 years of experience with the Alexander Technique and completed a 1,600 hour teacher training.Allyna also holds a Master of Public Health degree and has worked in the field of maternal, infant and reproductive health for over 10 years.